21 Oct Place God First
How you react when you hear Jesus say, “Do not worry about your life”?
Does your mind race, with mine, to talk right back to Jesus in your head and say, “Lord, are you kidding me??!! Do you know what’s going on in my life right now? And I’m NOT supposed to worry??!!” Then, without pause, I can rattle off an endless list of worries that are at the top of my mind: my finances, my work deadlines, my schedule conflicts to sort out in our family, my to-do-list….and that’s just the start. The worries ripple out in ever larger circles: the illnesses of friends, the crimes in our communities, the state of our nation, the natural disasters in our hemisphere, the hurt in our world. You know what I mean.
Because I’m not alone in my worries. We’re all anxious. Anxiety, the kind that physically and emotionally paralyzes people, has become epidemic. Just that word – “worry” – spins us up.
Yet, did you notice that today’s gospel doesn’t start with worry? Instead, Jesus announces we cannot serve two masters. We can’t serve both God and wealth. If we try serving both, Jesus says, we’ll end up loving one and hating the other. So how does that fit in with worry?
God and money are two masters. Jesus says, we can only serve one or the other. The word master really can be translated as “lord”. Money is a poor ‘lord’ in our lives. Because a “lord is the one who demands … your loyalty, allegiance, and worship” (“Picture This”, David Lose, Feb 20, 2011, WorkingPreacher.org)
The Scarcity Mindset
When money is our lord – when finances are the main framework of our lives – then we fall victim to a mindset of SCARCITY.
Money itself isn’t the problem. The concern for wealth that Jesus is speaking of here, is not about how much money you or I have in the bank. It has little to do with whether you drive a Jaguar or a Kia — or live in the newest development in Dane County or the tiniest apartment here in Meadowood. It’s our attitude toward money Jesus is speaking of. If money is your lord, then the problem that will consume you is that there will never be enough. When financial concerns are our central focus, we get sucked into this grand worry that we won’t ever have enough of it to make it into the future. That kind of worry becomes an unhealthy preoccupation about how we’ll get by in this world.
Now, hit the pause button here and don’t misunderstand my point. Having a genuine concern for our future – thinking and planning to meet our future needs financially- is ok. But if worry over financial matters becomes our PREOCCUPATION, day in and day out – then our worry about material things has replaced our faith. And today we confess, all of us are susceptible to an exaggerated concern over the financial resources we think we need now or in the future. This is a big area that sidetracks us as Christians.
This kind of worry is a reversal of the priorities God would have us live by. This kind of worry can consume all our energy. This kind of worry distorts our vision about the way things really are. We lose what really matters – our eternal perspective.
To that end, Jesus says, if we truly consider ourselves his disciples, then we absolutely must change our viewpoint. Today Jesus calls you and me to lift up our heads, to look around and look up in the skies. As you look at birds migrating through Wisconsin right now – are you seeing skinny ducks and geese? As the leaves on the trees change around us, do you see the splendor of their color? Do you think any of these trees are stressed about how they look or what they are wearing? Has God failed to care for the birds of the air? So, if God cares for the birds and all living things, doesn’t God also care for you and me – who are even more cherished and valued? The natural world all around us gives witness to its total dependence on God.
To whom do you belong?
So, to whom do you belong? The small god of money or the great God who created all of this life, whom Jesus called “Abba”, Father? Everything you HAVE and every beautiful thing that you ARE, comes from God. God, who is infinite in love and mercy is the one who guides us in our present and future. God’s love can’t be counted and stockpiled. It is overflowing, abundant, and steadfast. Resurrection itself is a sign of abundance. The God we believe in, can even make life out of death. That perspective changes everything.
When we place God first in our lives, – the God who has these incredible attributes, the God whose kingdom in breaking in here and now and who promises that nothing, not even death itself, will separate us from his love – then our worries, financial or otherwise, shrink and hold a much smaller place in our lives.
Because our Lord is the One we follow, not our material possessions, we are free to live differently.
A young dad shared this human illustration of the trust and freedom faith brings.
When one of his children was 5 yrs old, this young dad was leaving the house to do some errands. When his 5 yr old spotted him walking toward the car, she yelled, “I want to go too!”
Dad was in a mischievous mood, so he said, “Why in the world would you want to come along? You don’t even have any idea where you’d be going.” “Yes, I do.” She said. Dad teased, “No, you don’t”. She insisted “Yes, I do!”.
He challenged, “Where, then?” Her triumphant reply was, “I’m going with YOU!”
She was right. …. She never did really care about the details or the itinerary or destination. She simply wanted to go with – and be with – her Dad. She figured, and rightly so, that any other details would be worked out later by the daddy who loved her.” (“Don’t Be Overanxious”, Richard Foss, Augsburg Sermons, Gospel Series A, p. 68, Augsburg Press)
And that’s it, isn’t it? All that matters is that we press forward with God as the center – the Lord – of our lives. Trusting
in God’s provision and love, God becomes THE guiding presence in our lives. And when that is the case, our lives are re-framed. Our life’s purpose is no longer worry. It is extending the Kingdom of God first, then all these things will be added unto us. We’ll use our resources in generous ways to further that kingdom. We’ll listen carefully for God’s guidance in daily living. We’ll trust that the One who provides us with all things will tend to our needs. And we’ll know that, through all things, our eternal future is safely in His hands. Thanks be to God! AMEN.